NCAA volleyball historian Michael Sondheimer provided Off the Block with his stats to know about the upcoming NCAA Tournament finals between Long Beach State and UCLA. To find out more history and trends about the NCAA Tournament, order Sondheimer’s book NCAA Volleyball History.
Long Beach State, UCLA play again 48 years later
UCLA under head coach Al Scates beat Long Beach State 3-0 to claim the first NCAA title in 1970 in Pauley Pavilion. Kirk Kilgour for UCLA and Dodge Parker for Long Beach were two of the top players then. It was the only time they played in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA has won 9 titles in Pauley Pavilion, while Long Beach has lost title matches in 1970 and 1999 (lost to BYU). The UCLA women beat Long Beach State for the title in 1991 in Pauley Pavilion in 5 sets in the first women’s rally scoring set five in NCAA history).
Knipe vs. Speraw
Alan Knipe, Long Beach State
Knipe is trying to be the fourth person in NCAA history to win men’s titles as a player (was starting middle blocker on Long Beach’s only NCAA title team in 1991) and head coach (lost in NCAA finals in 2004, and VolleyFour in 2016 and 2017). Setter Rod Wilde was the first as Pepperdine player in 1978 and head coach in 1986 while Marv Dunphy was on an Olympic sabbatical. Outside hitter Bob Yoder was the second with USC as a player in 1977 and as head coach in 1988. UCLA’s John Speraw was the third winning player titles as a middle blocker in 1993 and 1995 and as UC Irvine head coach in 2007, also won there in 2009 and 2012. Speraw is the only one to win as player, assistant coach (2000 for UCLA) and as head coach (Mike Sealy, who set UCLA to the 1993 NCAA men’s title is the only person to then win a NCAA women’s division I title as head coach in 2011).
John Speraw, UCLA
Speraw is trying to join Tom Peterson (Penn State in 1994 and BYU in 2004) as the only two NCAA men’s coaches to ever win titles as two different Division I schools. Both Mick Haley (Texas and USC) and John Dunning (UOP and Stanford) have done it in NCAA women’s volleyball.
Knipe was head coach for the U.S. 2012 Olympic Team in London with Speraw as his assistant coach. Speraw became head Olympic coach for 2016 leading the United States to bronze medal and is USA coach for 2020 trying to qualify for Tokyo Olympics.
NCAA scoring comparison history
Prior to the start of rally scoring in 2001 the Midwest and East had won 1 combined NCAA title (Penn State in 1994) and had only four NCAA title appearances. Since rally scoring began in 2001, the Midwest and the East have 6 NCAA titles (4 straight, 5 of last 7) and have been on the finals 7 times, including a Midwest vs. Midwest title match in 2015. This is the first time an all-Southern California final since 2012 at USC when UC Irvine with Speraw as head coach won the crown. In fact since rally scoring began, Southern California teams have won only 6 NCAA titles, the same as the Midwest and East going into today’s title match.
NCAA finals at Pauley Pavilion
UCLA is 9-1 lifetime in NCAA Tournament finals in Pauley Pavilion (19-6 overall in title matches), losing its only match at home in 2005 when Al Scates lost to Pepperdine and Marv Dunphy in five sets. Long Beach State is 1-4 all-time in finals, losing to UCLA at Pauley in 1970 and to BYU in Pauley in 1999. Knipe lost as a player in the finals to USC in 1990 and then won as a player in 1991 beating USC in the rematch. Knipe as head coach lost in five to BYU in 2004 after being up 12-9 in the fifth set and having 3 title points. LBS Assistant Coach Scott Touzinsky played in the 2004 title match and made the NCAA All-Tournament team.
UCLA by the decade
UCLA is the only men’s school to play in NCAA finals in every decade by reaching this year and trying to be the first to win one in every decade of play. UCLA won seven of eight title matches in the 70s; six for seven in the 80s; four for six in the 90s; two for four in the 2000s and this is the 26th title match overall and first in the 2010s and first since 2006 title.
UCLA chance to tie for overall titles
Stanford leads all NCAA schools with 116 titles with UCLA in second at 115 and USC in third at 104. Stanford has won NCAA women’s soccer and NCAA women’s swimming and diving this year. UCLA has won NCAA men’s water polo and just won in April NCAA women’s gymnastics. The Bruins have another chance for a NCAA title with their #1 seeded beach volleyball team still playing in Alabama with the finals tomorrow on ESPN.
Attendance record to break
UCLA beat Pepperdine at Hawaii in 1998 when the all-time NCAA men’s volleyball championship match attendance record was set of 9,822, which broke the 1984 Pauley Pavilion NCAA final record of 9,809 when UCLA beat Pepperdine. There is a definite shot at the first 10,000 crowd to ever attend a NCAA post-season MVB match. Long Beach State is the host site for 2019 before the tournament goes to George Mason in 2020.
Speraw to be Hall of Famer after match
It will be a big 24 hours for John Speraw. Besides trying to win his first NCAA title for UCLA, he will be inducted on Sunday night into the Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame in Anaheim along with 14 others. One also going in is former Long Beach State All-American opposite Brent Hilliard, who helped led the 49ers to their only NCAA title in 1991 and was College Player of the Year in 1992. Hilliard is now the associate head coach for the University of San Diego women’s team and is expected to be in attendance.
UCLA, Long Beach State connections
Ray Ratelle coached Long Beach State to its only NCAA title in 1991. His son Ryan Ratelle played for Al Scates at UCLA in his final years as head coach (he was head coach 50 years). The current Long Beach State women’s coach Joy Fuerbringer lost in the NCAA finals in Pauley Pavilion in 1991 as the 49ers setter and won a NCAA title in 2011 as UCLA women’s assistant coach. Joy’s husband Matt (Long Beach State women’s assistant coach) had the winning block in 1997 when Stanford beat UCLA in five sets, 15-13 in the fifth (both are expected to be here). Matt was also Speraw’s assistant coach for the 2016 bronze medal winning Olympic Team in Rio. Long Beach State’s top hitter TJ DeFalco played for Speraw this past summer for the U.S Men’s National Team.
Ozzie Volstad was captain and MVP of UCLA’s 1987 NCAA title team (he also won in 1984) as the first NCAA championship player ever out of Norway. Long Beach State’s Bjarne Huus (from same town of Foerde as Volstad) can be the second and teammate Simon Anderson can be the first starter from Denmark to win a NCAA men’s volleyball title.